Lighting design in 5 steps

  • Capture the natural light

    The focus of the new layout of this basement refurbishment in West London was to make better use of the natural light. Before the work took place the kitchen worktops were situated against the wall backing onto the garden, and the only natural light came through two small windows above the units. The new design moved the units to the side wall and created access to the garden, letting light and air flood in through a glass door and large windows.

  • Identify the architectural features, limitations and opportunities

    As the ceilings in that space were very low, we took advantage of the extensive waterproofing works to lower the floor at the same time. This added height allowed us to use several spotlights to create a warm ambience: downlighting is much more effective in rooms with higher ceilings. The light could then bounce off the pale but warm paint on the walls and splash-back, as well as the glass sliding door.

  • Try ‘layering’ your lighting

    When starting a new project, I like to imagine the lighting in layers. Think about efficiency: how much light will be needed; how to control it; how many circuits will be necessary. The layers not only answer the practical needs of task, decorative or safety light requirements, but also makes the whole scheme much more interesting.

    For this kitchen, we used several different types of light — recessed spotlights, pendants, wall lights, LED strips — grouped in different circuits to highlight materials and textures, creating depth and contrast. And of course, dimmer switches allow you to adjust the lighting throughout the day.

  • Consider LEDs/low energy fittings versus decorative lights

    The UK Building Regulations were amended in 2013. The new requirements specify that for new or to be refurbished buildings, at least 75% of fittings must be low energy. This still allows to mix low energy fittings (usually done by replacing existing lighting for LED spotlights) with more decorative and interesting options to give the rooms more personality and a richer scheme.

    Although the lighting companies are filling the market with a huge variety of low energy options every day, that 25% can still be used for example when installing antique or vintage fittings.

    Halogen bulbs were used in this project on the Gubi Grossman Grasshoppa pendant light and the wall lights designed by Charlotte Perriand.

  • Choose your colour temperature

    Depending on how the natural light interacts with the room, we can choose to use cold or warm lighting. The paint scheme will also have an impact in this decision.

    All lightbulbs have a ‘colour temperature’: the higher the temperature, the cooler and bluer it will shine; a low temperature will give a much warmer and cosier light. For this project warm light bulbs working together with the pale greys and off whites were the best option to complement the lack of direct sunlight during the day. Extra warm lights are ideal for living rooms, lounges, and bedrooms as they give a relaxing, homely ambiance.

    Cool lights appear brighter and clearer and are often used in bathrooms and kitchens, as well as in commercial projects. Sometimes this can make a room feel cold and clinical, but when used well they can be the best option to light a painting or a particular feature.